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Leinster Rugby vs Benetton Treviso
RaboDirect Pro12 Round 20
RDS Showground, Dublin
Friday, 18th April 2014, 17:00

Television: Live - TG4, Mediaset

After winning ten games in a row, Leinster have now lost two on the bounce after the Ospreys beat them last Friday evening. The result in itself wasn't a disgrace, especially coming five days after their bruising encounter in Toulon. However once again it was a very poor performance from the Leinster team who at times looked utterly clueless as to what the gameplan was.

Even with that they were still in with a chance of snatching a win going into the last quarter, mainly on the back on a heroic individual performance from Cian Healy. However they threw away that chance with more poor discipline and awful decision-making. At least they managed to snag a losing bonus point and they did receive some good news on Saturday when Glasgow beat Munster at Thomond Park. This meant Leinster still have a four-point lead over Ulster, who destroyed Connacht to move up to second place.

Leinster have a very tricky trip to Ulster next week, so it's vital that they take maximum point against Treviso tomorrow night if they are to stay in first place and secure home advantage for the play-offs. They will also be hoping that Ulster drop points when they play in Glasgow, although giving Ulster's scintillating form last week that may be hoping for too much.

In any case Leinster can only worry about what they can do for themselves and they take on a Treviso team that has had a pretty turbulent season on and off the pitch. Since coming into the league back in 2010, Treviso have generally acquitted themselves quite respectably. However this year, with all the uncertainty about the future of European rugby that was only finally settled last week, Treviso have suffered. Back in February, they announced that they were withdrawing from the league from next season. At the same time rumours started that all their best players would leave the club at the end of the season, many of them heading to England.

This seemed to result in a collapse in morale and they succumbed to two shamefully heavy away defeats to Ospreys (75-7) and Connacht (38-6). However since things have stabilised off the field, they seem to have improved somewhat on the field as Treviso have won two of their last three games. They are seeking to be the only Italian team in the primary European competition next season under the new qualifying criteria. Treviso are currently eight points ahead of their compatriots Zebre and so should only need one more win to guarantee finishing ahead of them.

Their coach Marius Goosen has announced a team showing three changes to the side that comfortably beat the Dragons last week. The changes are all in the front five, with a new second row pairing of Marco Fuser and Valerio Bernabo and Matteo Muccignat coming at loose head prop alongside Lorenzo Cittadini and hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini who takes over the captaincy. The powerful number eight Robert Barbieri, reportedly a target for Leicester, makes up an excellent backrow alongside the hard-working Paul Derbyshire and Marco Filippucci.

Former Leinster player Mat Berquist starts at out-half alongside Italian International scrum-half Tobias Botes. Michele Campagnaro, who was the breakout star of the Six Nations Championship, makes up a dangerous centre partnership with the Tongan-born Japanese international Christian Loamanu. The massively experienced Luke McLean is at full back with Ludovico Nitoglia are Angelo Esposito taking the wing spots.

Leinster have announced a team showing five changes to the side that started last week. Brian O'Driscoll comes back in to reclaim the number 13 jersey from Gordon D'Arcy and Darragh Fanning comes in on the wing for Dave Kearney. The other three changes are in the second row where Mike McCarthy replaces Leo Cullen and in the backrow with Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy coming in for Kevin McLaughlin and Shane Jennings. Ian Madigan returns but is left on the bench and there is still no sign of Eoin Reddan so Jimmy Gopperth and Isaac Boss get a chance to atone for their disappointing performances last week.

It's not as strong a line-up as could be expected and perhaps Matt O'Connor is holding something back for the trip to Ulster next week. It still should be strong enough to win but the bonus point could depend on Leinster finally shaking off the shackles that have held them back all season and delivering a proper performance in the RDS.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Benetton Treviso
Teams Rob Kearney 15 Luke McLean
Zane Kirchner 14 Ludovico Nitoglia
Brian O'Driscoll 13 Michele Campagnaro
Noel Reid 12 Christian Loamanu
Darragh Fanning 11 Angelo Esposito
Jimmy Gopperth 10 Mat Berquist
Isaac Boss 9 Tobias Botes

Cian Healy 1 Matteo Muccignat
Sean Cronin 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (C)
Martin Moore 3 Lorenzo Cittadini
Devin Toner 4 Marco Fuser
Mike McCarthy 5 Valerio Bernabo
Rhys Ruddock6 Marco Filippucci
Jordi Murphy 7 Paul Derbyshire
Jamie Heaslip (C) 8 Robert Barbieri

Replacements Richardt Strauss 16 Giovanni Maistri
Jack McGrath 17 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet
Michael Bent 18 Pedro Di Santo
Tom Denton 19 Antonio Pavanello
Dominic Ryan 20
Dean Budd
Luke McGrath 21 Fabio Semenzato
Ian Madigan 22 James Ambrosini
Brendan Macken 23 Brendan Williams

Not Considered
due to Injury
Andrew Goodman,
Fergus McFadden,
Sean O'Brien,
Tadgh Furlong, Luke Fitzgerald

Francesco Minto,
Luca Morisi,
Simone Favaro,
Alessandro Zanni,
Franco Sbaraglini,
Michele Rizzo,
Edoardo Gori,
Alberto De Marchi,
Manoa Vosawai,
Corniel Van Zyl
Officials Referee: Neil Paterson (SRU),
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hagon-O'Connell, Will O'Connor (both IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU),
TMO: Dermot Moloney (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2014-04-17